+ some thoughts about life and how “we just do it all”.
As you probably know, my blog has taken a back-seat in my life for the past year or so due to the extensive flat renovation my partner and I have been working on since September 2021. I haven’t told you much about it yet and I will definitely do a before-and-after post series once it is completed, but on 14th of June it was finally ready enough that we could move in. Just so you know, I am using the loosest, widest definition of the word ready here – we don’t have a functional bathroom or kitchen yet, so we are sharing the ones downstairs with the in-laws, but we do have one room which has a complete floor that we are using as our current bedroom.
If I am honest, it has been a tough time for both of us as we have been doing most of the work by ourselves in the afternoons after our regular jobs and both of us are currently doing PhDs, so life has been one long stress fiesta lately. However, it was all instantly worth it the first night that we could finally sleep in our own home, rent-free and with a permanent place to grow roots in. In the past few years since I’ve left my parents’ home, I have moved a grand total of 7 times, some of it abroad, so I sincerely hope that this has been my last move ever. Although we still have a long while to go before our new home is fully finished and it will probably take another year or so, I am more at peace with the whole stressful situation now that we get to actually live here and we are both obviously super happy. 🙂
Besides telling you the good news, I wanted to address a very important question that has been popping up a lot since we started with this whole mess that I have also been sharing on social media, so get ready for some mental diarrhoea. I don’t usually have the time and energy to write in depth explanations and essays on my Instagram stories, so all that you have seen in the past year have been photo updates and short comments on the situation, but there has been one common reaction that I feel desperately deserves some clarification.
“how do you do it all? I would go crazy!”
Trust me, we have gone beyond crazy already. I can safely say that we probably would have broken up about 5 times already if we didn’t have a solid relationship that is built on communication and respect for each others’ space above everything else. We are both extremely stubborn and pig headed; my partner is chaos personified who sucks at time management and always triple books random unnecessary activities at the same time, while I am a control freak with a very short yelling fuse. We also both think that we are always right and usually blab first and think about it later, so listening takes the right state of mind and a lot of patience.
However, we are also both more or less aware of our flaws and trying to do better every day, which is the key word here. We try – we try to take care of each other, we try to empathise and understand each other even when we are on our last nerves and we try be honest with each other and talk through our issues. It is not perfect, because no relationship is, but that’s the behind the scenes that you don’t see on social media. Home renovation is always a stressful time because of all the adjustments and unpredictable expenses that pop up, but it is doubly so if you are doing it mostly with your own hands due to financial constraints. So, we don’t “just” do it all and it is not easy, but we take it day by day and we try. Some days are good, some days are horrible, but almost every day up to now has been full of dirt, dust, noise, sweat and waking up with guaranteed muscle pain. As long as you can see the final goal, you can manage almost anything if you try.
There is also the very literal aspect of “how do you do it all?”, because the most construction work I’ve ever done before now was painting a wall. In the past year I have learned how to use various power tools, mix concrete and wall plaster to fix up and straighten damaged walls, how to plan a whole home and do electrical installations and so on. I have scrolled through a thousand information webpages, I have shovelled, scrubbed, peeled, cleaned, painted and scraped all sorts of stuff from everywhere and I even did demolition works with an impact hammer while standing on a freaking ladder when my partner had a damaged nerve in his arm, because of course they managed to damage his nerve while he was donating blood just as we started with the renovation project, and of course I have a height problem and could barely climb ladders without nervous sweating when we started with the works. Besides more of the same, my partner has also had to learn how to lay bathroom tiles, instal wooden parquet flooring, do floor levelling and build a straight wall etc., because the only things we did not do by ourselves were the gas and plumbing installations.
How did we learn all this? Now comes the most important part, because like most things in life, it takes a village. It is practically impossible to do anything completely alone and something like this would’ve been a lot more painful and practically impossible without help. Firstly, we couldn’t have done it without his parents and siblings, who kindly agreed that my partner gets to inherit early and that we can move into the upstairs flat of their family house in exchange for fixing the roof and some other necessary stuff. We also couldn’t have done it without my grandparents, who loaned us money; his father who taught us how to do all the renovation works or even just how to get started and look in the right direction online; my father who has been helping us with all the bureaucracy, legal papers and electrical stuff; his architect sister who helped us plan our home; both of our friends and family members who came to help with all sorts of demolition, scraping, painting, building, carrying and ultimately with the move (not to mention the moral support); one of my uncles who donated painting supplies from his shop and let us borrow his van; my other uncle who gave us a whole set of bedroom furniture that we have upcycled a bit; his mother who made us lunch every Saturday while we were working upstairs and my mother who got us food from the market when we were too busy; all the super helpful staff in the hardware stores and workers who let us learn from them while they were working; as well as our bosses and coworkers for being understanding enough that we could both take random days off on short notice and leave early when needed.
It took me 250 words to list all the people who played a part in our home renovation, no matter how minor, so the next time you see someone “just” doing some major life things that seem crazy, remember to never underestimate the importance of having a social network, and not the online kind. When it comes to the big things in life, the stars just have to align in the right way a little bit – however, even though I am very grateful to all the people who have helped us in some way, at the end of the day when you want something, you just have to get up every day and work for it, in whichever form of the word work. For us that meant working another renovation shift after our regular jobs and missing out on a lot of other stuff, but we got an opportunity to get a home of our own and we took it. While I am at it, after this I have an even harder time imagining how some people build a whole house from scratch in their spare time, but they just do.
Now, I am the last person to glorify overworking, fatigue and burnouts for the sake of having it all in this fast paced, bizarre system we currently live in, but the brutal life fact is that nobody else is going to do it for you. Although we don’t all get equal opportunities and some things will never be possible for some people, what we can all do is try. Sometimes your best is good enough, and sometimes it isn’t, but it is all we have and can hold ourselves responsible for. We have been working on this for close to a year and it is still not finished, which is something people have also remarked on and we have fought a lot about, but that is the way it is when you are doing it by yourself in your spare time. A lot of things could have been done faster if we had been better organised or had known what we know now, but it appears that this is the pace we have been able to sustain without completely sacrificing our free time and burning out, which is something we both were and still are constantly on the verge of, so I’ve had to make my peace with our pace and respect my partner’s limits, which are different from mine. With exhaustion always haunting our heels, we’ve had to constantly remind each other to take a step back and relax, which is also why I am now very grateful that his parents are religious and that we were firmly discouraged from working at the flat on Sundays.
All in all, the “how do you do it all?” is not really an answerable question or even a very useful one to ask, unless you are asking it to make yourself feel inadequate in comparison to someone else, which is rather unhealthy. With the big life stuff, you just do. You get up every morning and you do it, until it is either done or you can’t do it anymore and something has to give. In either scenario, this bit of life wisdom holds and it is probably the most important thing I have managed to learn so far:
“Nothing changes, when nothing changes.”Unknown